CD: Psychedelic Pill by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Hey hey my my, Neil Young has made one of his best albums in years! As an artist who follows his muse wherever it takes him, it can be frustrating to be his fan, though I do so admire his creative courage even if the results don't enchant me as some of his best work does. And he is almost always at his finest with his off-and-on backing band Crazy Horse, though I had little use for Americana, his collection of classic folk songs he cut with them and put out earlier this year. And this new album is hardly his best crop of songs. But what it does is brim with the spirit of his music from the late 1960s as the title implies. For some the nearly 30 minute opening track "Driftin' Back" may seem daunting, yet it rolls along with such classic Young rock'n'roll charm I love every second. The theme here is a return to his earlier years, and as such it makes a perfect companion to his recently-published autobiography, yet also stands on its own. If you cherish such early Young landmarks as Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and After the Goldrush you'll likely love this new one as much as I do.

CD: When I'm President by Ian Hunter & The Rant Band

Yet another wonderful album by a veteran rocker who at age 73 is still doing his best work. For those of you unfamiliar with Hunter, he led the late 1960s/early '70s British rock'n'roll group Mott the Hoople, and over the last dozen or so years has made a compelling case for how maturity doesn't have to diminish an artist's rocking power and can even enhance it. The songs and music meld the teenage rebel spirit that's the fire that drives the best rock with the dignity and wisdom that comes from a life lived well and long. He still makes a compelling case for the golden years of Brit-rock even after living in the U.S. for decades, and kudos to Hunter for giving his superior band title credit (full disclosure: some of them are friends of mine).

TV Documentary: The Dust Bowl

Timing may not be everything, but it certainly makes this new Ken Burns documentary even more compelling, coming as it does at a moment when manmade climate change should be undeniable to even those living in what Bill Maher calls the bubble, right on the heels of Hurricane Sandy. Burns has become our de facto documentarian laureate, and this look at how farming practices in the nation's heartland during the early 20th Century and a drought created a national tragedy of immense proportions offers a cautionary to be heeded. The governmental response under Franklin D. Roosevelt also makes a convincing case for how government should serve and aid the populace in times of need and crisis. And beyond that, it's a telling tale of both human suffering and endurance.

From The Progressive Populist, February 1, 2013



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